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Curbing illegal mining in forest reserves: Forestry Commission calls for stakeholder support

The rapid response team (RRT) of the Forestry Commission has intensified its monitoring activities aimed at stamping out illegal mining in forest reserves. 

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Barely three weeks after arresting 30 illegal miners in two separate operations in the Bonsa River Forest Reserve in the Western Region, another person has been arrested at the Anhwiaso East Forest Reserve in the Bibiani Forest District in the Western North Region.

The Chinese, who gave his name as Lin Chil, 49, was arrested by officers of the Bibiani Forest District of the Forest Services Division (FSD) in collaboration with members of the RRT.

He has since been handed over to the Bibiani Police Command for further investigation and prosecution. The joint operation, which was carried out at dawn last Friday, led to the immobilisation of two excavators, which were being used to destroy the greenery in the forest reserve.

The Anhwiaso East Forest Reserve and other reserves have been under siege by galamsey operators, although the FSD was making a frantic effort to curb the menace. 

The swoop

Officials of FSD and the RRT, who undertook the swoop, said about 20 illegal miners, who were also actively on-site, bolted upon seeing the Forestry Commission team. They explained that the team saw one excavator, which they could not have access to because it was surrounded by gaping holes dug out by these illegal miners.

"The Forestry Commission team embarked on this operation based on intelligence gathered that some illegal miners had invaded the Manse Community portion of the Anhwiaso East Forest Reserve and were guarded by heavily armed men, led by one retired military officer," a source at the Forestry Commission, told the Daily Graphic.

The source added that in June this year, the staff of the commission embarked on a similar operation in the same forest reserve and immobilised some gold processing equipment. 

Recall

In November 2023 a team from the Forestry Commission arrested nine persons, including the Chief of Manse, Nana Kwame Sobreh II, who were illegally mining in the same forest reserve.

The suspects were eventually handed over to the Western North Regional Police Command for further investigations and were later released on bail. 

No prosecution

The source said it was worrying that up till now, those suspects had not been arraigned.  According to the source, the Police Command had indicated that the docket on the case had been referred to the Attorney General’s Department for study and advice.

"The commission is once again appealing to the Attorney General’s Department to expedite action on the case of the nine persons, including the Chief of Manse, to facilitate expeditious prosecution of the suspects who were arrested in November 2023 to serve as deterrent to others who intend to do the same,"  it added.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Forestry Commission, Nyadia Sulemana Nelson, said the fight against illegal mining in forest reserves required a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.

He made that observation in an interview with the Daily Graphic during the passing out parade for 70 members of the RRT who were trained by the Ghana Armed Forces at Asutuare on July 2.

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